Fernwood’s new Nature Adventure Garden includes hobbit houses with “green” roofs.

Archived Story

New Fernwood attraction features hobbit homes

Published 10:52pm Thursday, September 20, 2012

A new kid-centric attraction featuring interactive hobbit houses, log stepping stones, a giant sand pit and more is opening this weekend at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Center, 13988 Range Line Rd., Niles.

The $18,000 project, called the Nature Adventure Garden, is described as an organic, freeform, exploratory adventure garden geared toward kids and families.

“The goal is to encourage unstructured play and connect kids with outdoor natural areas,” said Jan Ferris, of Fernwood. “We want to enable kids to explore their imagination and enjoy being outdoors.”

Although not designed for any specific age group, Ferris said the attraction is best suited for children 3 years of age and older.

The 5,000-square-foot Nature Adventure Garden features a giant sand pit, hobbit houses with “green” roofs, pumpkin totems, log stepping stones, running hills, giant mushrooms capped with succulent plants, labyrinth and a sculpture of Lorenzo the red elephant.

Carol Line, of Fernwood, said the project received major and initial support by the Huizenga Family Foundation in Niles.

Ferris said, although the Nature Adventure Garden is not yet  complete, people can enter the garden now and explore the finished areas. It is open during Fernwood’s regular hours and will close for the season Oct. 28.

A second phase of the project is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013. It will include a water feature, giant bird’s nest accommodating children and adults, a willow tunnel and motion-activated mist system in the “rain forest.”

Design was supported by Fernwood staff Hayden Regina and Ben Futa, and Fernwood’s horticulture team, including summer garden interns. Also contributing in design were Purdue University landscape architecture students headed by Ann Hildner.

Gary Smith, a children’s garden designer, designed the nest.

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